40. Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Burt) to Secretary of State Haig1


  • Your Middle East Trip/Approach to Regional Security2


Your primary objective is to convey the seriousness of our concern about the threat to the region and our determination to move quickly to meet it, elicit local views on security needs, and explain (and gain support for) the evolving US strategic approach to the region.

Achieving US Objectives

Before addressing specific issues in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, you will have the opportunity to make the following general points:

We are putting together a coherent and integrated strategic approach to the security of the region.
Although we have yet to reach firm conclusions, we are prepared to give a sense of our objectives, our determination and our enduring commitment.
We need to build a capability sufficient to counter the threats to our mutual interests.
This endeavor will require clarifying the roles which we and our friends, both within and outside the region, can and must play as well as the contributions each of us are able to make to this mutual effort.
We, for our part, recognize our responsibility to take the lead, are prepared to do so, and will make a greater investment in the region’s security.

These general points will form the foundation for a more detailed discussion of our concerns and requirements.

1. The US Strategic Context:

As you know, the US has traditionally tried to separate the problems of regional security and those of Middle East peace. To the extent a linkage was recognized, it was thought that progress toward Middle East peace could safeguard our larger interests, or at least that such progress was an essential prerequisite to implementing a coherent strategy to protect our interests in the region. Moreover, Israel, for regional political reasons, was considered a liability and not seen as an asset in countering Soviet or related threats in the Eastern Mediterranean and, in certain circumstances, in Southwest Asia. These perceptions are widely shared, particularly in the Arab world.3

There are strong arguments you can use selectively on behalf of a different approach:

The Middle East should be seen as part of a larger political and strategic theater, the region bounded by Turkey, Pakistan, and the Horn of Africa.4 The entire region must be viewed as a strategic entity requiring comprehensive treatment to ensure a favorable balance of power.
It is important, then, to handle the Arab-Israeli question and other regional disputes in a framework that recognizes and is responsive to the larger threat of Soviet expansionism.
Improvements in the security of the region need not, indeed cannot, await progress in a peace process which will inevitably be slow and tortured. Although progress towards peace will buttress our larger security efforts, this alone cannot suffice. In addition, we believe there is a symbiotic relationship between progress in providing security to the region and progress in the peace process.5 Only when local states feel confident of US reliability and secure against Soviet threats will they be willing to take the necessary risks for peace.
There are certain contingencies (particularly those involving the USSR) in which Israel has much to contribute and could play an important strategic role. (Clearly, this is a point to be made only in Israel.)6

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2. US Interests:

The above notwithstanding, US interests have not changed significantly and it is important that the leaders you meet understand this. We retain a fundamental interest in nurturing an environment in which local states are able to develop sound political and economic institutions and relationships. Several specific goals are necessary to further these interests:

The demonstrated ability to counter the influence of the Soviets and their clients.
The continued existence of a strong Israel.
Continued Western access to the oil of the Persian Gulf in adequate quantities and at a reasonable price.
Close relations with moderate states of the region.
Ability to transit the region.

3. US Resolve in Meeting the Soviet Threat:

Threats have increased significantly in the wake of Iran’s revolution, Afghanistan, and the accumulation of Soviet power:

Regional states are experiencing the turbulence which accompanies the modernizing of traditional societies.
There exists an environment of endemic conflict springing from political, religious, ethnic, ideological, personal and economic differences. Revolutions, external support of opposition groups, and “traditional” war are the rule rather than the exception.
Most significant, the Soviets, with the advantages of geographic proximity, and a large number of coercive instruments (rapidly available arms, advisors and proxies) have both exploited and created opportunities to further their interests.

Your journey offers an opportunity to communicate US resolve in meeting these threats. If we expect the local states to contribute to the stability of the region and to resist intimidation, we must restore their faith in our reliability. Making it clear that we are prepared to run risks and accept opposition is essential in this regard. Demonstrating our willingness to help economically and militarily will also be important. Beyond this, we must let them know we are prepared to fight in the region if our interests are threatened by the Soviets or someone else whom the locals are unable to resist. In this vein, it will be important to explain that we are exploring the possibility of increased (and indeed continuous) air and ground force presence and prepositioning in the region and that we recognize that we must be able to deploy more force more rapidly and sustain it more fully.

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4. The Roles of Local States and Western Allies:

You will want to describe the roles we believe local states, the US and the Western Allies can play in a common approach to regional security.

—It will be important to convince your hosts we recognize they have essential contributions to make to regional security, we want them to be able to resist aggression and intimidation, and we stand ready to contribute to their stability with balanced development and security assistance programs.

—Your visit should help build their confidence that we are credible, capable, and ready to support them by providing arms for their use and introducing our own forces if necessary.7 In short, we are ready to demonstrate that it pays to be an American friend, and it may cost to be an American foe.

—In addition, many of the states, especially Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Jordan, can (and must) play key roles in helping us to deter and counter Soviet pressures and threats in one or more of the following ways:

  • providing assistance to others within the region;
  • furnishing logistical support to our forces;
  • allowing us to use their facilities for prepositioning, stockpiling, operations, staging and transit;
  • hindering Soviet access;
  • assuming certain limited combat roles and missions;
  • posing threats-in-being to the Soviets or their proxies.

—Some of your hosts may be reluctant to accept these roles. Your trip should be seen as our first opportunity to initiate a frank dialogue with several of these countries, to explain what their security will require, to explore their thoughts on how to deal with regional threats and to determine how willing they might be to cooperate with us. Our objective should be to persuade them not only of our concept of the threat but also of the need to contribute to a common endeavor to meet it.

[Omitted here is specific information regarding the countries Haig was scheduled to visit.]

In all cases, it will be important for you to make clear that our Western Allies share many of our interest, and that we believe we cannot—we should not—have to shoulder the entire responsibility for the area. You could explain we envision a variety of roles for our allies: enroute access, economic [Page 137] and security assistance, establishing strong political relationships in the region, military presence, rapid deployment capabilities, and assuming an increased share of the burdens in Europe and East Asia. The bottom line should be that the stakes, as well the threats, are great, and that all of us can must do more on behalf of our common security interests.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Alexander Haig Papers, Department of State, Day File, Box CL 31, March 19, 1981. Secret. Drafted by Edgar and Haass on March 19; cleared by Veliotes and Wolfowitz. Haass initialed for Wolfowitz. Edgar and Veliotes did not initial the memorandum.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 34.
  3. Haig underlined this and the preceding sentence.
  4. Haig wrote “1,” “2,” and “3” above “Turkey,” “Pakistan,” and “the Horn of Africa,” respectively. He also circled the numerals.
  5. Haig underlined the portion of this sentence beginning with the word “there” and ending with “process.”
  6. Immediately following this sentence, Haig wrote, “Amen!”
  7. Haig drew a line from the word “visit” to the space above this paragraph and wrote: “support Existing regimes!”